Young Pavlova's years of training were difficult. Classical ballet did not come easily to her. Her severely arched feet, thin ankles, and long limbs clashed with the small, compact body favoured for the ballerina of the time. Her fellow students taunted her with such nicknames as The broom and La petite sauvage. Undeterred, Pavlova trained to improve her technique. She would practice and practice after learning a step. She said, "No one can arrive from being talented alone. God gives talent, work transforms talent into genius"; She took extra lessons from the noted teachers of the day— Christian Johansson , Pavel Gerdt , Nikolai Legat —and from Enrico Cecchetti , considered the greatest ballet virtuoso of the time and founder of the Cecchetti method , a very influential ballet technique used to this day. In 1898, she entered the classe de perfection of Ekaterina Vazem , former Prima ballerina of the Saint PetersburgImperial Theatres.
During her final year at the Imperial Ballet School, she performed many roles with the principal company. She graduated in 1899 at age 18, chosen to enter the Imperial Ballet a rank ahead of corps de ballet as a coryphée. She made her official début at the Mariinsky Theatre in Pavel Gerdt's Les Dryades prétendues (The False Dryads). Her performance drew praise from the critics, particularly the great critic and historian Nikolai Bezobrazov. Pavlova is perhaps most renowned for creating the role of The Dying Swan , a solo choreographed for her by Michel Fokine . The ballet, created in 1905, is danced to Le cygne from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns .
Pavlova also choreographed several solos herself, one of which is The Dragonfly, a short ballet set to music by Fritz Kreisler. While performing the role,Pavlova wore a gossamer gown with large dragonfly wings fixed to the back. she was nine, her mother took her to audition for the renowned Imperial Ballet School. Because of her youth, and what was considered her appearance, she was rejected, but, at age 10, in 1891, she was accepted. She appeared for the first time on stage in Marius Petipa's Un conte de fées (A Fairy Tale), which the ballet master staged for the students of the school.